This entry is a pure descriptive chronology of the places we ate out at while in SF. Detailed because we got so many questions from people in SF and at home about “what we ate.” Here it is:
For our first meal, we lunched at Ti Couz, a quirky crepe and salad place in the Mission. Michael and I were instantly in love with SF food. The crepes were nutty in flavor, and had many options for fillings. I had a savory one with cheese and tomatoes folded inside, AND a sweet one topped with red wine poached pears, chocolate sauce, and gelato. Both were equally delicious! We sat towards the front of the restaurant where the windows were tossed wide open and we could appreciate the sounds of the street and the first of our sun-filled days in the Bay Area (I’m not lying. We had sun every single day. Eat your heart out.). Sheila aptly noted that there is much to be said about eating at a restaurant that specializes in a certain type of food, a kind of guarantee for practiced excellence in that particular food genre. The texture, consistency, flavor, and execution of the crepes at Ti Couz are an amen to that sentiment.
Jordan took us to brunch at Chloe’s in Noe Valley. I love how restaurants in SF trust people to put their own names on the wait lists for tables. We did play by the rules and landed a sidewalk table in a few minutes. More sun and dining al fresco, though I had misplaced my sunglasses. Youch! But the food eased the stinging in my eyes. I forget what I ordered but the taste of the pancakes Jordan and Michael had are forever part of my taste bud memory. Pumpkin spice and maple pecan flavored batters were fried into the yummiest, fluffy yet crispy cakes I’ve ever eaten. You get great bread with jam and butter too, and the coffee is good.
In Santa Cruz we had appetizers with a Beauregard Chardonnay at Carniglia’s on the wharf. The wine smelt like honeysuckle and the crostini toasts with goat cheese and roasted garlic bulb spreads was mellow and delicious. The atmosphere was elegant with fine silver and white tablecloths, just like Grandma Stewart would approve of. And you can’t beat the view of the Pacific.
Back in SF we found ourselves at the Ferry Building on the day of the Farmer’s Market. I insisted to Michael that we would find food for lunch there, and LO, we did! I gobbled up a St. Benoit French style yogurt with honey. It was so very good it seems unfair to call it just yogurt. It was more like yogurt candy and I will long to taste it again until I do. We also had good tamales and samosas to fill our bellies.
Zante’s Pizza and Indian Cuisine was the one meal I wish I’d eaten twice, perhaps because I am obsessed with Indo-fusion food and dream of opening my own restaurant or writing a cookbook in the genre. The Indian pizza was damn good. It combined several of my favorite comfort foods in one great dish! The pizza dough was a standard pizza pie dough, and then it was topped with spicy sauce, North Indian spiced eggplant, spiced spinach, spiced cauliflower, cilantro, and then, mozzarella cheese! Sounds weird but somehow it just worked! I think I wanted to eat it again so I could fully contemplate how it is that all the flavors worked together. I highly recommend the experience.
The next night Sheila and Jordan took us to Burma Superstar, a place with a loyal cult following. This was my first foray into Burmese food and I wasn’t disappointed. I was reminded of Malaysian cuisine except the flavors and forms are much closer to Indian food. We sampled quite a lot of the menu, but what I remember most was the Samusa Soup, a curried soup with pieces of samosa and chickpea dumplings floating in it and the dessert, a chocolate torte topped with ginger ice cream. YUM! The Nan Gyi Dok ordered in a vegetarian version was also good. Drink the ginger beer with your meal for the total experience.
In the Napa Valley we picked up lunch at the Oakville Grocery. This place is totally packed around the lunch hours, but with good reason. They have a plethora of yummy salads, cheeses, breads, and spreads. Our favorite was a roasted corn salad scented with cumin with some sliced fennel strips and other aromatic veggies. The corn was naturally sweet and delicious. The sourdough was great. We had a nice goat cheese with smoked paprika sprinkled on top and a chunk of Emmentaler. We also got this chocolate with candied ginger pieces (yummy) and mission fig spread by the girl & the fig. Both were amazing. We had to search for nice grounds to eat the food at and the lovely folks at Frog’s Leap Winery let us use the staff dining table located under a pergola of wisteria that smelled just like jasmine. So lovely. Don’t tell them we told you about it because they don’t allow picnicking on the grounds.
For dinner in Napa we had reservations at Hurley’s in Yountville. We were exhausted but the prospect of food perked us up–at first. The waiter seemed disappointed that we were 1) vegetarian and 2) too hung over to drink any more wine, but when he checked back in the kitchen several dishes were cooked in vegetarian stock and were entirely veggie or at least easily modified. Michael had a wonderful mushroom risotto and I had a butternut squash ravioli that started out tasting good, but as the meal went along I became curious about what spices and herbs were in the cream sauce. The sliced herb was sage, but it took Michael’s superior taste buds to say, “Something in here is also used in curries.” Then I knew it. “It’s curry powder,” I said unenthusiastically. That did it. I don’t tend to like curry powder because no one who cooks curries would ever use it in an actual curry. Suddenly I wasn’t feeling like finishing my food. Maybe it was the curry powder but more likely it was because the waiter went out of his way to not speak another word to us all night. He just stood over the table until we told him what we wanted for desert, and he placed the bill on our table and walked away with a flourish.
The next day we were in Sonoma Valley and we ate at the Healdsburg Bar and Grill. They have a great outdoor dining space and veggie burgers and portabello mushroom sandwiches. The delicious sandwich buns and fries greatly elevated the standard fare.
Back in SF we had another great pizza pie at the Arizmendi Bakery. It had asiago and fresh spinach on it, and though it was stuff-your-face tasty, Sanjay and I both found that we had a chalky feeling in our mouths after eating the spinach! I think we both felt relieved that we were not the only people on earth to feel uncomfortable after eating fresh spinach. Michael researched the issue, in only the way Michael can, and found that scientists believe that the presence of oxalic acid is what causes some people to feel “chalky mouth” after eating spinach.
In Oakland we had a nice coffee at Gaylord’s and then went across the street for our absolute worst Bay area eating experience at Lotus Thai. It was so bad that I still feel sad thinking about it. It’s food. Shouldn’t people who run a restaurant care more about it? It’s just so SAD.
The next day we went to the Greens Restaurant on the Marina for brunch. Another food experience that leaves me feeling a little sad. This is what we had been waiting for, the famous Greens Restaurant, vegetarian temple and haven. The food was far from bad. It was good, but it wasn’t…revolutionary. Maybe it started the revolution and now everyone has copied them, but it doesn’t seem to be staying ahead of the game. Or maybe it is because we did the Sunday brunch rather than dinner. I did enjoy gazing out at the Golden Gate Bridge while I ate my fruit topped French toast though. Sigh.
Later that night we ate tapas at Ramblas, suggested by Ravi’s girlfriend Abby. It was a spot on choice. The atmosphere was urban and the food was good. Nice Patatas Bravas, which is a prerequisite for any tapas place. The Tortilla Espanola was a very good version of the cold potato omelet you find at most tapas places, but I was especially psyched by all the more unusual and wide ranging vegetarian options on the menu. We had the Potaje, chickpea and spinach soup with Manchego crostini. Very different. A little heavy on smoked paprika in the flavor, but good. We had the delicious Empanadillas de verdura, small empanadas with goat and manchego cheese, spinach, and pine nuts. My favorite was a dish with wide roasted pepper strips stuffed with cheeses. We drank the obligatory pitchers of sangria to go with everything, but it was flavored with vanilla which was a little too overpowering and masked the yummy rose flavor that naturally occurs when you soak the fruit in the liquors.
For our last meal out in SF Michael and I treated ourselves to a wine lunch at Herbivore, vegan mecca. Michael was beside himself. This is his favorite sort of cuisine: healthy, fresh, anything with soba noodles, seitan, tempeh, or tofu. I always kind of miss the gobs of butter and cheese myself. But we had very good food nonetheless accompanied by the Bonny Doon Big House White, a good neutral table wine. Michael got, of course, soba noodles with grilled tofu and vegetables in a wasabi-kicked sauce. I had a Mediterranean wrap with seitan, hummus, and spicy harissa sauce. It was yummy. My favorite part of the meal was the chocolate milkshake I treated myself to for dessert. Made with soy milk and soy ice cream, they also blended up whole chunks of dark chocolate in there. It was dee-lish, as Auntie Rene would say.
And that’s all folks. Stay tuned for more on SF and, of course, the pleasures of home too.